Monday, January 21, 2008

The Party of Death?

Tomorrow (Jan 22) is the Annual March for Life. It is also the 30th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision which has lead to the death of more than fifty million American children. This can be a contentious issue, with lots of name calling and exaggeration for points.

There is even a book called "The Party of Death", accusing Democrats of being "pro-death".

Is there any truth to this? Can some numbers shed light on this?

Whenever I see polls on abortion, the break down is roughly 50/50. I've also seen that Republicans are better than 60/40 on the side of life. About 40% of people identify as Republican or Democrat, with 20% claiming "independent" (although independent candidates usually get less than 10% of the vote, so "wishy-washy" is a more accurate term :)

Ok, so in the general population:
40% * 60% = 24% pro-life Republicans
40% * 40% = 16% pro-death Republicans
50% - 24% = 26% pro-life Others
100%-24%-16%-26% = 34% pro-death Others

This is telling! In the pro-life camp, people are well balanced between Republican and Other. That is, there is little correlation between being pro-life and being Republican. At the same time, in the Others group, people are more than two times(! 34% vs 16%) more likely to be pro-death than pro-life.

Can we break-out Democrats from Independents? I found one poll that pro-life Democrats are 35% and Independents are 44%.

So in the general population:
40% * 35% = 14% pro-life Democrats
20% * 44% = 8.8% pro-life Independents
40% * 65% = 26% pro-death Democrats
20% * 56% = 11.2% pro-death Independent

The pro-life number (14+8.8=22.8) is a little short of the expected 26%, probably due to actually less than 50% of people are pro-life, and me mixing data from polls with guesstimates...

So, this clears the Independents. About 50% are pro-death. It is the Democrats who hold the 2-to-1 ratio (26 to 14) for pro-death to pro-life.

So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that all the Democrat candidates for president are pro-death. That's what the people want.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

We're Immoral Criminals, and Proud of It!

I caught this headline, and was worried that recent advances in creating stem cells from from skin worked differently than I thought. However, it is "just" an announcement of human cloning (using skin cells). I don't know what to say. The head (Samuel Wood) of the company responsible says it best:
"It's unethical and it's illegal, and we hope no one else does it either."
Um, ok.

I recommend anyone in favor of human cloning for organ transplant (or, tangentially, freezing yourself in hopes of future medical cures) read Larry Niven's "Flatlander" line of stories. I'm not saying that's what we'll come to, but it does give you something to worry about.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Book Review

"Why the Ten Commandments Matter" (D. James Kennedy) - I've previously mentioned how I'm disappointed by the Christian literature section of my local library. So, I was surprised to see this thin little book peeking at me from the stacks. I knew I had to read it.

Overall, Kennedy does an excellent job of presenting each of the ten commandments, and convicting the reader of the reality of sin. I don't think I would write a book on this subject quite the same way. The author seems to be targeting more of a Christian audience, or maybe luke-warm Christians. Also, he seems a little distracted by the removal of the ten commandments from public life (both the physical displays and in people's behavior). As Christians, we need to keep in mind that the Bible specifically says the world opposes God. We shouldn't be surprised when it happens. I think it comes from post-millennial eschatology...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Book Review

"The Selfish Gene" (Richard Dawkins) - This book is an insightful introduction to ethology (the study of behavior), with many examples based upon "game theory".

Dawkins is not arguing that there is some particular gene that makes us selfish. Nor, that genes in general make us selfish. That is an unfortunate implication of the title.

Rather, he is intrigued by the notion of seemingly selfless acts, and he reasons from a gene selection basis for how such behavior could be selected for.

The author spends many words to disabuse the reader from the notions of "group selection" (for the good of the species), and even "individual selection" (survival of the fittest individuals). He makes a fairly strong argument that only "genes" (one or more "cistrons" - sections of genetic code) can be selected. He makes effective use of game theory to show how to derive the end results of various strategies for animal behavior (although these "strategies" are usually instinctual).

That said, Dawkins cannot help but editorialize and assert his own views on origins. On page 1, he is so bold as to quote another (in total agreement),
"... all attempts to answer that question ["What is man?"] before 1859 [referring to Darwin's "Origin of the Species"] are worthless and that we will be better off if we ignore them completely"
So what is Dawkins' theology (and teleology)? Who is Dawkins' god?

Dawkins is no fan of anyone or anything (save his own thoughts). But I would argue that the closest thing to a god for him would be genes. He refers to them as "immortal", and attributes great power to them (although not omnipotence).

Even against this god of his own creation he cannot help but rebel. On page 201 he says, "We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators."

Friday, January 4, 2008


Teleology is the study of purpose. What is our purpose in life? How does one determine purpose? What does it even mean?

There can be short term purpose (get food from the grocery store), and long term purpose (what should I do with my life). I am only interested in long term purpose.

Strict interpreters of materialism will assert there is no long term purpose to life. And they are right, if there assumptions are correct.

From the Christian side of the aisle, there are actually many different purposes advocated. Which are true?

  1. "Your Best Life Now" - Also known as the prosperity "gospel". Very popular today. And very un-Biblical.

  2. Get people saved. This is a noble goal, and we should try and see as many people saved as possible. But it is not God's purpose for us. A simple check, if our purpose was to get people saved, then either all people are saved or God's purpose is thwarted.

  3. To Glorify God. You won't find this stated explicitly in the Bible (although it is in the Westminster Shorter Catechism). But a thorough reading of the Bible will make it clear. It answers many questions:

    1. Why did God create the universe? Does God need us around to be happy? No. We were created to glorify God.

    2. Why is there evil in the world? To remind us of our need for God, and to allow God to punish evil doers (demonstrating that He is just).

    3. Why do some people go to Hell? See answer 2. God is just, and punishes those who break His laws (which is everybody - see the Ten Commandments).

    4. Why do we need Jesus (why is He the only way)? Why did Jesus die? Jesus' death pays the price for breaking the law for those who believe in Him. This allows God to be glorified by demonstrating His mercy (not giving punishment that is due) and grace (giving gifts that are not deserved).